Posted 05-24-2004 at 04:35:15
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Everybody knows that lions don't attack hippos. I'm not sure why, but it's just a fact of life on the African plains. No matter how hungry they are, lions will share a waterhole with hippos and never even look twice at them as a food source. Maybe it's the fact that hippos are wrapped in so much fat, that an attack on them would be like trying to kill an elephant with a sewing needle. Or maybe it's the two formidable tusks affixed to the front of their benignly sweet round faces, that makes them a non-target. Either way, lions just don't attack hippos.
But someone forget to tell the four nomads. Four juvenile brothers, who had skulked from waterhole to waterhole. No one had told them that lions don't attack hippos. Lacking a pride and guidance from elders, these young males had tried everything, and even debated the folly of trying to take down a full grown giraffe, when they finally came upon the lone hippo.
I'm not sure who was more surprised, the lions of the pride that owned this particular waterhole, or the hippo, but when the four brothers threw themselves full body onto the hippo and actually had it down to it's knees, it didn't take long for a half dozen of the strange lions to join in the fracas. United by an urge much stronger than common sense, more powerful than territorial rights, much more compelling than the fact that they were not allies, they attacked, and by the sheer number of antagonists, the hippo became history. Ten lions, strangers, but with the same goals, fed, and fed...and fed.
Bloated beyond being able to move at all, the lions simply collapsed in the early morning sun and slept while the flies circled and the scavengers began to do their dirty little jobs. So sated were the lions, that they didn't even bother to clean themselves, but snored the morning away, their faces and paws covered in congealed blood.
Shortly after the event, two other hippos strolled by. So stunned were they at the sight before them, that they stopped and stared and stared. You could almost read their minds, merely by studying the expressions on their faces. They were wondering if the lions had come along and merely found a dead hippo and took advantage of the situation. But even to a hippo, it must have been clear that there had been a massive struggle. The scent of the sap of broken tree trunks and panic, must have still been lingering heavily in the air. It was clear that these two hippos were shaken to the core. Their nostrils flared and they stamped about nervously.
Lions don't attack hippos. Do they?
The hippos exchanged more than a few glances at each other and God knows how many unspoken questions. As I watched this attack and the subsequent reaction occur, compliments of The Discovery Channel, I couldn't help finding a parallel between the hippos, the lions, and the United States and terrorism. It seems that every time we humans as a species think we know something, someone or something comes along and proves to us how wrong we were. It seems that we tend to forget over and over again how fanaticism and rage can change all the rules in the wink of an eye.
Nobody told those young lions (the terrorists) that they need not try to attack the mighty hippo (the United States), as they would fail. So, lacking the knowledge of the futility of the action, they did it anyway, and succeeded. Now how will they ever be convinced that they shouldn't try again? How can those lions ever be convinced that attacking a hippo again would be a grave mistake?
The hippos (The US) seem to have nothing new to intimidate the lions (the terrorists). They are already protected by as much fat as they can grow, (the military). They already have the biggest tusks (weapons arsenal) available to use in their defense. So if the hippos wanted to send a clear message to the lions that this victory was a fluke, that the success came merely by the element of surprise, that there are not likely to be any more successes of this sort, what would they do? How could they discourage this banding together of the lions against their clan? What would they do to make them understand that even with increasing numbers of lions joining in an attack, the hippo would prevail.
What they did do, those two passing hippos, is they charged the sleeping lions. With a rage unmatched by any seen before in the animal kingdom, those two hippos scattered lions under their massive stomping feet. In an utterly shocking and awesome display of fearsome strength and determination, they lashed into the lions.
In the course of the attack they wounded two of the four brothers and sent them limping away, marked for life, most likely to die, as they will never be fleet of foot again, will never be able to run fast enough to catch prey again, and thoroughly bereft of the benefit of the element of surprise. It's difficult to sneak up on a quarry, while dragging a useless limb.
What those two hippos did was turn the tables on the lions. The potential prey became the hunter, the victim became the aggressor, the retaliation, unmatched in it's ferocity. Even a Pop Warner football coach will tell you that the best defense is a good offense, something these hippos came to know in the space of just a few moments of reflection.
Perhaps we should ask those two hippos what we are fighting for.